Good Morning, everyone! As always, "Thank You" for attending today's monthly service for December, 2016. This is the last monthly service for this year & I hope each one of you is enjoying good health & excellent spirits as we look forward to welcoming in the New Year of 2017.
A famous Japanese proverb says, "When the end is good, everything is good." It means that everything is good when everything turns out well in the end, even if we sometimes fail to accomplish what we intended to along the way."
As I've said several times, I'm practicing faith by focusing solely on deepening my peaceful & joyful heart through everything that happens in my daily life. So allow me to reflect on my faith-progress in 2016.
As we began 2016, I sincerely prayed for KC Chicago to become a Mecca for young people anywhere in the world who seek a true way of happiness, which I've, in true fulfillment, appreciated in Kami. For that I have recited in my mind again & again the following poem of mine:
" To you young people!
Your true Way to happiness
Is found in this Faith.
Come & learn it faithfully;
Become a light of the world! "
During this year I have exchanged emails with a number young Americans. They are interested in our faith's place among the many religions in the world. I have tried to do my best to explain this faith as, "...seeking to follow Kami's way of perfecting a peaceful & joyful heart," to those who seek the way of mutual fulfillment between Kami & people as sincerely as possible. I have really come to appreciate the wonderful progress I have received in blessings from Kami. To my pleasure, new people have connected with our church during the year, but a number have flowed out; due to a change in their jobs.
Still the numbers of those young Americans have been so small that I have always been sorry to Kami for my lack of faith. During this year I have prayed and practiced faith so hard to deepen peace and joy in my heart to the extent that Kami would bring as many young people as possible.
In June I had a chance to speak at the monthly service in KC Otoshima, Japan. It was a great honor. My niece Fukuyo Sensei got married to Rev. Shinji Iwamoto, son of the head minister, Rev. Tokuo Iwamoto at KC Otoshima, in November of 2015.
Fukuyo Sensei sent me an e-mail April 27th that said Rev. Tokuo Iwamoto wanted me to give the sermon for the monthly service to be held on June 13th at KC Otoshima.
Then Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, my current parent minister of KC Airaku sent the following message on April 30th, "'I would like to become the number one grateful person in Japan. This is the favorite phrase of the founding minister of KC Airaku, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo. It can be said that after pursuing this gratitude he achieved an unbreakable peace & joy in his heart."
During my silent prayer at 4:00 am the next morning, the following idea welled up in my mind: "I would like to recite 'thank you very much' 1300 times a day in my mind as Rev. Torao Iwamoto, founding minister of KC Otoshima did."
Since that time I have tried to say "Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, Thank you very much!," 1300 times a day any time it occurs to me.
In August I realized how deeply our family & KC Chicago had been blessed. It was only through the divine virtue of my mentor Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, & not by deepening my faith. My faith is still like water in a cup. It has limitations. Rev. Otsubo taught us, "Water received in a cup is limited, but an infinite amount of water flows up out of a spring. We need to persevere in faith until infinite depth of beliefs spring up."
I apologized Kami for the limitation of my faith practice & made a vow to Kami to have faith like water that springs up naturally. Then I started saying 1300 times a day "Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, Thank you very much! Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, please forgive me!
I am such an existence that cannot help but apologize all the time. When I apologize for the lack of my faith with deep emotion, miraculously deep appreciation to Kami wells up in my mind.
The 911, terrorists' attack in New York city had the 15th anniversary this year. By praying all day long on that day 15 years ago, I realized Kami's deep sorrow. Kami's beloved children have killed each other throughout human history. Human history of 'power vs power' has never changed. I swore to Kami to stop this cycle of human history & support an era of peaceful & joyful hearts around the world.
But my efforts have been smaller than I want. On 911 this year I decided to add to my mental recitation, "Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, I will be of Your faithful servant!"
Now I recite all three sentences in my mind 1300 times a day. It takes about 2 hours. Some days I succeed in saying all 3900 sentences, but I fail to do so many more days than I'd like.
So if I recite these three prayers each & every moment throughout each day...GREAT It will make the end of this year for me great and everything will become great for me this year. If I do NOT reach this goal satisfactory... That too is great... because I will have my goal to improve my faith practice in 2017!
I hope you all think over your faith this year & do your best to make this coming year memorable.
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